How German babies won a human rights victory for intersex individuals

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 11:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 11:03am

I refer to reports that “Germany is poised to recognise third gender among newborn babies” (August 15). I applaud the German government for deciding to allow a third gender option on birth certificates for babies who are not distinctly male or female.

In fact, between 0.5 per cent and 1.7 per cent of babies worldwide are born with intersex traits, which means they do not have typical male or female characteristics. Some intersex traits are visibly evident, such as ambiguous genitalia, while there are a number of others which involve genetic, hormonal or anatomical differences.

In passing a bill permitting children born intersex to be registered as “various”, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s left-right coalition in effect acted to put an end to the violation of human rights of intersex persons. No one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual identity, and they should be protected by law from such gender discrimination.

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Previously, most babies of indeterminate gender were made to undergo unrecoverable surgery for removal of reproductive organs or genitalia. I understand why parents might do this: they want their children to have typical male or female sex characteristics. But such a decision violates the child’s right to physical integrity and autonomy. Some intersex people may be forced into a gender they do not identify with and suffer all their lives, both physically and psychologically.

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New gender options can give intersex people a greater sense of dignity and positive identity, not to speak of protection under the law. I hope Germany’s example will be followed by more countries.

Christy Lam, Kwai Chung